Friday, December 09, 2011

If only Singaporeans stop to think

Here is another good blog

Moderating the Internet

Some countries are addressing the issue of injurious remarks posted anonymously in the Internet.

Where bears roam free

Dangerous to trade in forex

Dear Sir,
Actually I wrote to you to know about X (who runs a forex training course). Somebody told me he is good, somebody told he is not good. I am confused. I got your site and I think you will know and give me a helping kind comment.

Somebody saw his video and testimonial and told me he is good. After that I see his some presentation video. I think good. 
But in the internet blog I see some bad reputation and scam about him. That's why I am confused. I already made decision for join with him. 

Do you have any personal experience about this guy. However people already make his course, do you know anybody, who already done his course? What should I do? Is forex trading is really good or profitable?

I advise people not to attend expensive forex training courses, as they spend a lot of money on the training, and later they go to lose more money through trading.

I do not wish to comment on any specific person. I have given my views to you. You can now decide what you wish to do. Wish you all the best.

Caught by the new property ruling

My friend had been caught by the new property ruling. He was in the process of selling sell his private apartment (to downgrade to a HDB flat) when the ruling came suddenly into effect. He said:

You are correct the new ruling should not affect my HDB flat purchase. In fact, I might even enjoy a lightly lower price. However, with the unexpected negative sentiments towards private property, it is likely my targetted selling price will suffer a big drop.
Last month, a buyer brought his family and relatives for second viewing. They really liked my apartment, and agreed on the price. However, he wanted to show the S&P contract to his lawyer before paying the 1%. Unfortunately, he subsequently had problem getting a loan for this property.

Recently, my agent re-contacted another local buyer. I have been confident he would pay my target price, but today, I think it might go well below it.

Financial well-being of employees

This article shows how the fees charged by an investment fund can affect the payout received by the investor at the time of retirement. Many employees have been charged high fees that were not told to them. The law in US now the employer responsible to ensure that their employees are given a fair deal.

We have a similar situation in Singapore, where too many people are getting a poor deal on the financial products that they invest in. These products take away too much of the investment returns. In many cases, the fees are higher than the 1.5% that is quoted in this article as being bad for employees. Who will look after the interest of the ordinary people in Singapore?

I have been doing my best to inform people on how to select a low risk, low cost investment fund that is good for their future. This is explained in my book on financial planning and in the educational talk given by FISCA.

There is very little that I can do, if the Government does not recognize that it is responsible for the financial well-being of the people.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Taxi booking (TABS-4)

I have launched a trial of the taxi booking system (TABS-4) for the past 4 months. The results are encouraging. There is interest in this new mode of finding a taxi. You can use this system to book a non-Comfort taxi and avoid paying the high fares.

Read this report:

Taxi booking - flow chart

This is the flow chart of the taxi booking system (TABS-4) using the smart phone. It shows the process for customers and taxi driver.

Speaker's corner - protest against rising cost of living

Prabu Ramachandran is speaking at Speaker's corner on Saturday 2 pm to protest against the rising cost of living. He is asking for people to show up. More details can be found at:

Key challenges faced by Singapore

On the plane to Jeddah, I met a Singaporean lecturer. He recognized me and told me, in his soft spoken way, about the four challenges faced in Singapore:

  • Transport. Many people spend up to 3 hours daily on transport. This is a big waste of productivity.
  • Housing prices. It is too costly.
  • Medical cost. The cost of medical treatment for his mother was so expensive that he had to downgrad from a private property.
  • Education. It is too stressful and costly.
I replied that these challenges affect everybody and is a real test of whether the Government has build a good environment for the people. 

Additional Buyer's Stamp Duty

This is the Government's approach towards controlling speculation in property - impose complicated regulations.

There is a simpler approach. If the Government offers HDB flats at controlled prices, and the HDB flats have to be sold back to HDB at the controlled prices, similar to the situation prior to 1980, there will be no need to implement these complicated regulations. It would also address the root cause of the problem - providing affordable housing to the people. 

Tax on Financial Transactions

This article gives a good explanation about the implications of a tax on financial transactions. I disagree with the views of the writer, who is the senior editor of CNBC. I agree with the views of several economists, including Keynes, Krugman and others, who argue that it will reduce financial speculation and give revenue to governments. But, we will need an international agreement on the rate of tax, so that it can be implemented worldwide.

A lesson in Greek economics

I received this story by e-mail.

It is a slow day in a little Greek Village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough, everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit. On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a €100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night. 
The owner gives him some keys and as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the €100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher. The butcher takes the €100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer. The pig farmer takes the €100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel. The guy at the Farmers' Co-op takes the €100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna. 
The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him "services" on credit. The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the €100 note. 
The hotel proprietor then places the €100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything. At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the €100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.   No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.   
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is how the bailout package works.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

WiFi service provided by Starhub

I have been a subscriber to Starhub broadband service for many years. They offer free WiFi services to their subscribers. I did not use it for a long time, as I was quite confused with many IDs used by Starhub for their services.

Recently, I learned that I had a Hub ID, which can be used to access the WiFi. I tried it at Changi Airport and found the surfing speed to be excellent. This is a good service, which many people may not realize, due to the complexity. Having overcome it (at last), I expect to use it quite often. It is much better than Wireless@SG.

Hike in taxi fares

I like the articles written by Lucky Tan. We both share the same philosophy about what is right and what is good. Here are his views about the hike in taxi fares. He said that it is better to allow taxi drivers to work for themselves, rather than to hire a taxi from a taxi company. What are your views?

Balloting for priority

I sent this letter to the Straits Times but it was not published. What are your views?

Forum Page
Straits Times

I read the news report about the long queue that was formed that was formed a few days earlier for new launch of Bedok Residences. 

This system is archaic and poses hygiene and social problems and could lead to disputes and disorder. We have also experienced long queues for registration in primary schools and for tickets to popular events. Even online queuing leads to breakdown of the computer systems, due to the heavy demand.

We need to have a more practical way of allocating priority through the balloting system. All interested party should be given sufficient time to register their interest before a closing date. The priority should be decided by ballotting or drawing lots through an electronic system that can be verified to be transparent and fair.

It should be possible for such an online system to be developed that can be shared by any organizer in place of the queuing system. The authority may have to step in to promote such an alternative arrangement, for the sake of transparency and orderliness. 

Tan Kin Lian

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Wisdom book - special offer

Words from a young mother

Just to say that I'm inspired by your drive and determination! With your positiveness, I'm sure at the end of the day, you are the true winner especially when you truly express your thoughts, statements, missions from your heart.
I hope things can really improve and you could help more people no matter which position you are holding on.  I think you are more real than most of them on the top.
I came to read more about your info and also scene in the Singapore politics during the GE and the PE. I'm saddened that Singapore is transforming to a money hungry machine, no more culture, values, substances, honesty, harmony and even sometimes integrity.
I'm worried for the next generation wat kind of society they are living in, where they tear down good old memories like national stadium, library, and the cement playground with sand now being replace with the sandless ones plastic ones where you can see foam tiles poking out for months.
I read about your articles and understand every single bit; there is no public service mentality any more in ALL government sector. they face no crisis and get bonus no matter how bad. But people  who work in private have not smell even AWS bonus for many years.

How can government sector doing better than private? Yes, you mention about wasteful  environment... I definitely agree. I have pick up so many furnitures around my estate and it's enough to have a complete set in my home, and out pathetic Resident Committee is just not doing much about educating this issue.... sigh....

Overall Singapore is not same any more... other monetary gains for some of them, I see the everyone living in fear for the future because they don't know how much they need in THEIR land.


Encourage the use of eNETS

I have been using Paypal to receive payments for two years. It was easy to set up and worked well. The cost was low.

Recently, I enquired about joining eNETS to receive payment through debit cards. The registration process was difficult. I had to provide a lot of information on their online form. I also had to print out 40 pages of information and sign several documents. I had to get supporting documents from ACRA, certification, etc.

No wonder so few merchants use eNETS. The paperwork is so tedious that most merchants would be discouraged from even trying it. There is really no need to make the process so difficult for a small merchant. I suspect that it is the requirement of the DBS bank and probably of MAS.

I wish that the process could be simplified so that more merchants are encouraged to join eNETS and receive payments through this channel, rather than making payment by cheque.  The burdensome requirements are hindering the process of change to more efficient ways of making payment. I hope that MAS and IDA read this blog and take the leadership to improve the situation in Singapore.

Monday, December 05, 2011

New regulations on financial products

A journalist ask me this question:
Hi Mr Tan,

Are you familiar with the Specified Investment Product rules that take effect from Jan 1 next year?
I would like your thoughts on the new rules as I can see a few potential problems such as raising the cost of selling investment products by forcing many people to go offline when purchasing unit trusts, ETFs etc?
Also, it does seem strange to group plain vanilla mutual funds with more complex hedge funds, structured warrants etc.

My reply
This is creating a lot of wasteful work without tackling the root of the problem. It is typical in Singapore to pass the buck to someone else, in this case the financial adviser or the relationship manager - but how on earth are they going to give the proper advice? Many relationship manager sold the toxic products to the consumers prior to the global financial crisis - because they are not suitable to give this type of advice. But (sigh), this is the Singapore way!

Asking for board resolution

Singapore continues to be quite backward, with ridiculous requirements that increases business cost and continues inefficient practices.

I wanted to send instructions by fax, instead of by mail. DBS Bank requires me to sign a form (which is all right) but they also require a board resolution and a letter of indemnity to the bank. I do not know why it is necessary to have this troublesome requirement. As the authorized signatory of the bank account, I can write a check to pay out all the money in the bank, but I am not allowed to give an authorization to the bank to make the transfer by fax!

This requirement is probably made on the advice of the lawyer and the security consultant. The bank does not realize that it is technically quite troublesome to pass a board resolution - and it has to and go through proper secretarial procedure and filed with ACRA. A bank with good customer service can receive the fax, and call back by telephone to verify the request (in case it is sent fraudulently), rather than insist on this indemnity.

Because of their impractical requirement, I will have to continue sending request by ordinary mail - continuing the outdated, inefficient practices. This is good news for Singapore Post but it adds to the cost of doing business and to the tons of wasteful paperwork in Singapore.


American politics and financial disaster

I do not understand how it is possible to extend the payroll tax cut and also extend the unemployment benefit at the same time. I understand that the payroll tax is used to fund the unemployment benefit and social security. If the payroll tax is cut, then the social security (i.e. old age pensions and unemployment benefit) has to be reduced - not extended. American politics has reach a ridiculous level.

NavFone - navigation on the iPhone/ iPad

I have installed the NavFone (from AGIS) on my iPad. I bought it for $2.99. It is excellent, and works better than the GPS navigation that I installed in my car (which cost nearly $300). It is easy to use and have map for Singapore and Malaysia. My challenge is to install a holder for my iPad in my car, so it can provide navigation guidance while I am driving. 

Singapore Immigration Form

This is the immigration form that Singapore requires visitors to complete before they are allowed to enter into Singapore.

A lot of information asked in this form is available in the passport which are scanned before they are allowed in. Why impose on the visitors the hassle of writing the information on the immigration form?

I hope that the immigration authorities of the Asean countries will discuss and remove this requirement, which is out of date. We have to reduce the inconvenience and stress that are given to travellers.

Panasonic Air conditioner

The air conditioner in my office was spoilt. The fault was identified to be a faulty condenser. It was installed recently and was still under warranty.

The Panasonic engineer came to fix the problem last Thursday. They were not able to solve it. They promised to come on Friday or Monday. We did not hear from them. We called their office and nobody knew who was responsible for it. My office did not have air con for 3 working days, excluding weekends.

I am worried about the poor standard of service, from a large reputable company. My air con contractor (a small SME) is helping me to chase them. But the big company seem to be not bothered about customer service or the inconvenience that they cause to their customers.

Putting things right

There are many things that are wrong in Singapore. They have accumulated over the years. These wrong things have increased costs and add stress to the public. They are imposed by government bureaucracy or by business organizations.

I want to raise these issues, so that they can be recognized and hopefully be put right. I do not wish to make complaints for the sake of being negative. But, if we really want to make improvements, we must point them out in a positive manner.

They are many people who said, "What is the point?". Things will never change. I do not agree with this negative approach. I think that if many people come forward and say, "We do not like things to get worse - we want things to be made better", then there is the chance for a change.

Difficulty to access website of DBS Bank

I log in to the DBS website to access my corporate banking account. I have to enter the organisation ID, user ID, user password and also a 8 digit number from the 2FA token. It was quite troublesome. to remember so many details - so I have to refer to a printed paper (which is really quite risky).  After this procedure, the website hang. I tried 3 times, and it kept getting hang.

I contacted DBS and told me about my problem. Why do they need a 8 digit token number, which was quite difficult to remember (on top of level of details to be entered). The answer - "security". Most banks use 6 digits, which is easier to remember. Eight digits is over-doing the security.

They are not able to explain why their website hang. They did not have the issue with other customers, so it must be my fault. However, I also log in to the website of another bank, and went through easily.

I suspected that the website hang because I was using the Chrome browser. I tried again with Internet Explorer and it went through.  It seemed that they have implemented some additional security that caused trouble with Chrome. (Actually, there are websites of several other large organizations with similar problems).

I wish to share this feedback, so that our large business organizations and government agencies are aware about the problems that their online processes are causing to their customers, and how the over-reliance on "security" (usually made at the suggestion of their security consultants) are making the websites quite impractical and difficult to use.

Waste of resources

I observe that many students spend a few years in polytechnic and university to take up an engineering, IT or other courses, but work in other occupations after graduating. It is a big waste of resources. Why can't they enrol for the course that they will finally work in?

Our economy needs people in transport, so they should learn how to drive and where the roads are, for example. The other occupations in demand are in the service and food industry. These can be meaningful occupations - provided that they get adequate pay (and are not depressed by the use of foreign workers).

Share your views.

Taxation and public spending

The US Government has fairly generous welfare payouts and large spending to run their country and maintain a strong military. But they refused to raise the taxes to pay for their expenses. They even want to cut the payroll tax (which is used to fund social security, old age pension and medical care), when these funds are in big deficit.

Good mobile apps on smart phone and tablets

Share your experience on good mobile apps that run on various smart phone and tablets. You can post here or at

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Kudos to Nanyang Polytechnic

Nanyang Polytechnic sent to me, by e-mail, two PDFs containing details of their student internship programme for 2012 and another PDF containing an application form. I printed the application form, completed it neatly within 10 minutes (as they only asked for essential information) and faxed it to them. I was not required to log into a website and fill up an online form - thank goodness!

This is the easiest form that I have to complete to a government agency, in this case a polytechnic. To reciprocate their kindness, I completed the form neatly in block letters. If I miss out any essential information, they can always reply to me by e-mail.

I wish to thank the management of Nanyang Polytechnic for being considerate to the public.

Live a happy life

Here are some tips to live a happy life, while you are still alive.

Wireless@SG and 3G

The IDA wishes to encourage more people to use the free WiFi service called Wireless@SG, so as to reduce the data load on the 3G network.  Why are people using the chargeable 3G instead of the free WiFi service? There are many WiFi hotspots, and users can save on the data charge and also get faster access.

I hardly use Wireless@SG because it is quite troublesome to login to many hotspots, especially on a mobile hone. What is your experience?

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